What do you get when you put a smart-ass, know-it-all, redneck morning radio talk show host in a room with a Black Muslim, an Asian social activist, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, a gay hairdresser, an atheist, a feminist mother of three, and an adoringly zealous lesbian? Total liberating chaos.
Leave it to Bob Dumas, the morning radio show host best known for his not-so-politically-correct views, to come up with the insane notion of hosting monthly get-togethers called, "Dinner with 9," where people from opposite walks of life and social backgrounds converge once a month to discuss topics ranging from welfare and homelessness to soccer, immigration, and yes, even Kobe Bryant. Chaos, yes. Any one particular topic that they all agree on? Absolutely not. Yet, in a warped and freakish kind of way, the experience seemed to be oddly liberating to all members of this unlikely group.
Keep in mind that Bob, better known as half of Bob and Madison on G105, has infuriated me for the four years I've lived here. We're talking about a talk show host who actually gets on air and mimics the Chinese language, and rants and raves about having to go through the extra step of choosing English or Spanish on the ATM machine. I wanted to face him and hopefully change him. I would have bet he'd never met an Asian person in his life. And he hadn't, he said, until he met me.
Initially, his goal was probably self-serving, to force himself to face the fear of the unknown (and maybe develop some material to talk about on air, too), but after the first meeting, the true goal became apparent to all involved. This group of unimaginably diverse Triangle residents was attempting the near-impossible feat of breaking down unspoken communication barriers by being as honest, open and as politically incorrect as possible. No holding back, no politeness. Just nine polar opposites being real, asking questions they always wanted to ask, but had held back due to normal standards of social acceptance--all in an attempt to gain true personal insight into the lives and minds of people different from themselves.
If we were to label this a study circle on diversity, it would most definitely have to be prefaced with the terms "raw" and "unplugged." In what other setting would it ever be appropriate to ask questions like why is it acceptable for blacks to use the "N" word with each other? Or whether or not gay sex is enjoyable? Or how someone eludes law enforcement and gets across the Mexican border. The idea is a refreshingly brilliant take on an exercise in diversity awareness.
No, the group is probably not going to solve the problems of the world by talking about politics and race relations over a cold brewsky once a month. But by letting down guards and confronting the core root of issues, they may just inevitably come to a respectable and mutual understanding of one another. And maybe, just maybe, some day a long, long time from now, they might actually stumble upon something that all nine of them agree on.